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Best low light 42mm scope took unexpected turn

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    Posted: January/16/2020 at 14:04
I have been going through 42-44mm scopes for many years now. And had many 50-56mm scopes too. Too many to list here ! Lots of Zeiss Conquests and similar. Alpha range- Zeiss Diavari, Leica ER, Swaro PV/PH, Schmidt and Bender Klassiks, Kahles,and Swaro Z5. Maybe more if I think about it.
 
This past SC season I used Zeiss Victory 2.5-10x42 #4, Swaro PH 2.5-10X42 #7, three SB Klassik 3-12x42(L7,L3,and P3), Swaro PH 3-12X50 Plex, and SB Klassik 6x42 A7.
 
A few days ago I picked up a Luepold VX6-HD 2-12X42 Firedot reticle. I like the power range/size of 2-12x42 and weight, like the locking turrets for some of my shots ranging 250-450yrds, free custom dial, and the illumination works well. I figured I could deal with a little less low light performance to gain some of the other features.
 
I have been testing it after dark a couple of days against my other scopes in my back yard. I have not been in the field yet. But I am shocked at how well this scope does. It outperforms the Swaro and Zeiss in my opinion. I was seeing pine tree bark, stobs from broken limbs, pine needles, damage to my archery deer target at 70 yrds, all well after dark with the VX-6HD. And it has been cloudy and raining here all week. I could see the trees and make out the edge of the deer target with the other scopes but no bark or any other details I mentioned. Since the SB Klassiks have been my favorite I had to try them too and I was stunned that the VX-6hd is as good if not perhaps slightly better. I would say at dusk the VX-6HD is no doubt better and at 9pm last night it was about a draw with my SB 3-12X42 L3.  After hunting next week in AL, I should have a better idea but wow, Luepold really put together a nice scope!!
 
The finish is not as nice as the other alphas, the clicks are not as nice and positive as the SB that I am used to, and I have no idea right now if it is going to hold a zero as well. But I am blown away at the low light performance and clarity.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote supertool73 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/16/2020 at 14:18
The VX6 and VX5 HDs offer alot.  With the Zerolock turrets and the firedot illumination they are hard to beat IMO for a good quality hunting scope.  I have a 2-12x and a 2-10x and love both of them. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cbm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/16/2020 at 16:35
How does the VX5 compare to VX6? I have read they are the same as far as low light hunting. If so, there may be a couple being bought in a few weeks. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote supertool73 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/16/2020 at 17:57
I can't tell much diff if any optically
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cbm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/03/2020 at 12:41
Hunted a week with the VX-6HD. I am really just shocked at how well it did in low light. I had a few small nit picks about this and that. Especially since it cost about the same as some of my Schmidt and Benders. As far as pure low light hunting goes and no other criteria, nothing I have used is any better in a 42mm.
 
I liked it so much, I bought another one this weekend.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Whitefire Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/03/2020 at 15:51
What are your nit picks?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Urimaginaryfrnd Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/03/2020 at 15:52
IOR makes some fixed 6x42 scopes both hunting version and tactical version and they are Shott Glass and are very bright.  Any thing over 6x with a 42 mm objective will be increasingly less bright so 6x better than 8x which is better than 10x etc.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RifleDude Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/03/2020 at 17:45
Given quality scopes, and with all having 42mm objective, 8x and 9x will outperform 6x in low light. Optimal low light performance isn’t just a function of exit pupil diameter, it is the happy marriage of sufficiently large EP for good light transmission and sufficiently high magnification to resolve details. “Brighter” by itself isn’t the measure of low light performance, and 7mm EP diameter isn’t necessarily where low light performance is at its peak. Reducing magnification does increase “brightness” but it also reduces detail and contrast in low light. Optimal low light performance actually occurs when selected magnification provides 4-5mm exit pupil because at those magnifications, you hit the “sweet spot” where both magnification and EP diameter are sufficient for the best combination of “enough brightness” and “enough details” resolved.

It’s a myth that reducing magnification and seeking that magic 7mm EP always improves low light performance. Reducing magnification only improves low light performance when you have so much magnification that the resulting EP dia goes below 4mm or so.


Edited by RifleDude - February/03/2020 at 17:50
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote koshkin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/03/2020 at 18:42
Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

Given quality scopes, and with all having 42mm objective, 8x and 9x will outperform 6x in low light. Optimal low light performance isn’t just a function of exit pupil diameter, it is the happy marriage of sufficiently large EP for good light transmission and sufficiently high magnification to resolve details. “Brighter” by itself isn’t the measure of low light performance, and 7mm EP diameter isn’t necessarily where low light performance is at its peak. Reducing magnification does increase “brightness” but it also reduces detail and contrast in low light. Optimal low light performance actually occurs when selected magnification provides 4-5mm exit pupil because at those magnifications, you hit the “sweet spot” where both magnification and EP diameter are sufficient for the best combination of “enough brightness” and “enough details” resolved.

It’s a myth that reducing magnification and seeking that magic 7mm EP always improves low light performance. Reducing magnification only improves low light performance when you have so much magnification that the resulting EP dia goes below 4mm or so.

That also depends on how old you are, how much your eye dilates and how long you have been looking through the scope.  The longer you have been staring through it the larger of an exit pupil you need.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cbm Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/04/2020 at 08:01
Yeh, I can not explain it as well as above, but it works better in low light to increase the power range as much as is usable. I generally make shots in real dark conditions on 8x or so with 42mm scopes. But have made many on 10x, even at 90-100 yrds.  On 6x I usually can not see detail enough to make out something like a hog's snout. I have to crank it up to see that kind of detail and see what direction he is facing. But then again, in SC we can hunt an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset. That puts us hunting a good 20-30 minutes in the dark. I have had several 6x42 and still have one Schmidt and Bender. It is great but not my top choice for real low light hunting.
 
Nit picks I have- the illumination turret cap when tightend all the way causes it not to work properly. I am not talking about over tightened, but just snug. So I had to back it off a little for it to work correctly. And on a hunt when it was cold, frosty, and foggy..........I shot a deer. I had to go down in the woods to retrieve it and once back out to the field the grass was wet with melting frost. I laid my gun down for a bit while pulling the deer into the field and when walking back to the truck I noticed the scope was fogged up pretty good(although you could see out of it). I know that is being picky given the circustances but it does have hydrophobic coatings. It was not beaded up, it was a solid film of fog on the front lense.The windage also did not track right causing me some trouble sighting in. I will not dial for windage, so it doesn't matter to me much. The elevation is right on but the windage seemed to be off a reasonable amount. And I had a little trouble on 10-12x with my head position. No issues under 10x but over 10x I had to do a little adjusting.
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Wadmalaw Hunter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/05/2020 at 11:10
Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

Given quality scopes, and with all having 42mm objective, 8x and 9x will outperform 6x in low light. Optimal low light performance isn’t just a function of exit pupil diameter, it is the happy marriage of sufficiently large EP for good light transmission and sufficiently high magnification to resolve details. “Brighter” by itself isn’t the measure of low light performance, and 7mm EP diameter isn’t necessarily where low light performance is at its peak. Reducing magnification does increase “brightness” but it also reduces detail and contrast in low light. Optimal low light performance actually occurs when selected magnification provides 4-5mm exit pupil because at those magnifications, you hit the “sweet spot” where both magnification and EP diameter are sufficient for the best combination of “enough brightness” and “enough details” resolved.

It’s a myth that reducing magnification and seeking that magic 7mm EP always improves low light performance. Reducing magnification only improves low light performance when you have so much magnification that the resulting EP dia goes below 4mm or so.

This explanation makes the most sense to me. I have taken shots in the dark but at legal time, and was shocked to see that my power setting was at 7-8. Prior to my shot, I turn the power ring until I can see the Deer the best. Even though the image isn't as bright as 3-4 power, when dialed up higher I can make out the Deer much better. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote supertool73 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/05/2020 at 12:31
Often times when hunting I will be able to hear a herd of elk, but it is still to dark to see them.  But when I put up my 10x45 bino's I can see the elk pretty good and make out racks and everything.  That would be at 4.5mm exit pupil.  So its definitely the magnification that is allow me to see them through the low light.

Urimaginary has preached that over and over for years, not sure why he keeps doing it when it has been refuted many many times.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RifleDude Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February/05/2020 at 16:01
When it comes to low light performance, exit pupil diameter is certainly important, but so is detail. A more detailed but technically "dimmer" object is better for precision shots than a "brighter" poorly-defined "blob." The higher the level of detail resolved and greater the contrast, the more "perceptual brightness" registered by the brain. 

Yes, the ideal EP size for best performance will vary from individual to individual and the dilation condition of the cornea, but the same principle holds true - moderately high magnification and EP work together to obtain the best low light performance. If it were true that dialing down the magnification to get a 7mm or larger EP always outperformed higher magnification but a smaller EP diameter, then everyone would be best served with their variable scopes set at 1-3X at dawn and dusk, and it doesn't take much experimentation to quickly see that doesn't work well.

A good way to visualize the idea here is with the following analogy:

You're standing out in the woods during twilight hours and you can barely see a distant object. If you turn on your flashlight, you can see the object better, but if it's far enough away, you may not be able to make out many details. If you instead walk up much closer to the object, you're able to see fine details on the object even with the flashlight turned off, in spite of the dim light. Of course, if you walk up closer to the object AND turn on the flashlight, you can really discern fine details, but often having more illumination isn't as effective as simply being closer.

Exit pupil AND magnification work together for optimal low light performance. It's better to sacrifice a bit of EP diameter to gain the additional detail that dialing up moderately higher magnification provides, as long as the reduced FOV doesn't hinder your ability to acquire the target. 
Ted


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